CARRYING THE AROMA OF CHRIST

Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 2:12-17

Let’s take another look at the Roman Triumph. There was the general in his chariot who led it, the laurelled victorious soldiers, the spoils of war, and then the sullen, broken captives who had been defeated in the battle. Amazing that the victorious and the defeated were in the same procession. One of the features of this triumphal procession would be the beautiful aroma of the incense as it was burned to the Roman gods to whom they ascribed victory.

To the victorious soldiers it was a pleasant aroma, but to the defeated, broken soldiers it was the aroma of defeat, failure and death.

Paul immediately likens this to the believer. The believer in Christ is a sweet aroma to God, and we are the fragrance of life both to those who are saved and those who are perishing. To one it is the fragrance of life leading to life, and to the other of death leading to death [verse 16].

Let’s consider four ways in which we are a sweet aroma to God:

Firstly, Christ in us! When Christ lives His life through us it is a sweet aroma that pleases God. The word fragrance is the Greek word osmēn. It is used of Christ, “Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God” [Ephesians 5:2]. As Christ lives in us we too become a pleasing aroma to God. It should be “no longer I that live, but Christ who lives in me” [Gal. 2:20]

Secondly, Sacrificial generosity! Paul uses the same Greek word when he writes to the Philippians. The Philippians had very generously sent a love gift to Paul through Epaphroditus and he calls that gift a sweet smelling aroma [Philippians 4:18]. No wonder God met their need [Philippians 4:19].

Thirdly, Sharing the gospel! Paul writes about the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ in every place! The Amplified Bible translates this as, “Thanks be to God who leads us, wherever we are, on his own triumphant way and makes our knowledge of him spread throughout the world like a lovely perfume” [2 Corinthians 2:14 Amp. Bible]. Paul was not only an aroma of Christ, but wherever Paul ministered the knowledge of Christ was manifested and resulted in transformed lives and the aroma spreading.

Fourthly, Prayer! In the Book of Revelation, we read that the prayers of the saints were mixed with incense and ascended to God [Revelation 9:3-4]. Can you imagine how beautiful the aroma of those prayers might be to God?

Questions:

Is your life like a sweet aroma to God? Are there things that spoil the fragrance of Christ in you? What might those things be?

What does it, mean “It is no longer I that live, but Christ who lives in me? [Gal. 2:20]

HE ALWAYS LEADS US IN TRIUMPH

Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 2:12-17

But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession” [2 Corinthians 2:14 NLT]

We can see the burden Paul was carrying when he was so restless because he had heard no news of Titus [verse 12-13], but then, in the following verse, comes this sudden outburst of praise [verse 14]. Perhaps it was because Titus had come to him, and had removed his distress, and possibly he had learned from Titus that his efforts to help the church at Corinth had been successful, and that they had hearkened to his counsels in his first letter.

Most Biblical scholars see this outburst of praise as a reference to the Roman Triumph and the lavish victory parade celebrations in Rome after great battles. The victorious general would lead the parade in his chariot with its white horses. The laurelled victorious soldiers followed, then the spoils of war, and finally the sullen captives. Almost certainly Paul was using this as a picture of our triumph in Christ.

The Greek word for triumph in this passage is thriambeuonti and specifically refers to a triumphal procession, and only occurs twice in the New Testament – here and in Colossians 2:15, “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” Christ on the cross, despoiled and plundered the powers of darkness, and thus lead a victory procession in a similar way to the Roman conqueror.

Throughout Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians there are contrasts between our weakness and struggles, and the tremendous victory we have in Christ. However tough the way, or weak we may feel, the truth is that we are called to be more than conquerors through Christ who loves us [Romans 8:37]. The background to that verse is of tribulation, famine, nakedness, peril and the sword [Romans 8:35-36] and yet through all this Christ literally leads us in triumph to be more than conquerors! Paul had come through a battle and was victorious over the enemy and in advancing the kingdom of Christ.

In conclusion, I would be happy to be a conqueror, and yet God promises that we will be “more than conquerors!” What is this more? The Greek word is hupernikao, from huper, “over and above,” and nikao, “to conqueror.” In Christ we are super conquerors, and His love will protect us from all the forces of evil, and in His love God turns everything, even suffering and death, into good.

Questions:

Why not give thanks that in Jesus you are more than a conqueror whatever struggles you might be going through?

Why is it important to recognise that we are not strong in our own strength but in Christ and in His strength?

Because you are in Christ there is nothing that Satan can do to you except you give him a legal right to do so. Why is this so important to understand?

WHEN YOUR SPIRIT IS DISTURBED

Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 2:12-17

Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord, I had no rest in my spirit, because I did not find Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I departed for Macedonia

[2 Corinthians 2:12-13 NKJV].

When Paul visited Troas a door for ministry was opened to him, but in his spirit he felt disturbed. He was deeply concerned about the Corinthian church and his fellow worker, Titus. Very often God’s guidance comes when our spirit is disturbed. Paul writes, “I had no rest in my spirit”. The New Living Translation translates this as, “I had no peace of mind”. The Greek word translated as rest is anesis, which means to relax, to stop being stressed or to find relief. The words “taking my leave of them” are very strong in the Greek. Even though there were tremendous openings to preach in Troas Paul knew very quickly that he should respond to the disturbance in his spirit, recognising that it was a God-given sign that something was not right. He literally listened to his spirit!

Writing about this passage, Rick Renner says, “God is faithful to speak to you – but His voice can often be heard only by what you sense in your own heart. If you sense peace in your heart, it could be the Holy Spirit telling you, “You have a green light so you can proceed.” But if you have a lack of peace or an inward disturbance, never forget that it could be God’s way of saying, “Yellow light, so proceed with caution.” Or He may even be telling you, “Red alert! Stop! Something is wrong.” [Sparkling Gems from the Greek, Vol. 2, p.128].

All God’s ways are peace and all His paths are righteousness. Writing to the Philippians Paul says, “The peace of God shall guard your hearts and mind” [Philippians 4:7]. The Greek word for “guard” in that verse is phroureo, meaning, “to mount guard as a sentinel, to hem in, to protect, keep.” It is the peace of God that protects us and guards us! If you have no peace, then don’t go there! Don’t resist the voice of the Holy Spirit in your spirit!

On another occasion Paul experienced this kind of disturbance in his spirit. He and Silas intended to go to a place called Bithynia, “but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there” [Acts 16:7 NLT].

We should listen to our spirit because God does speak to us in our spirit. I suspect that if we took time to listen carefully, we would be more protected from making serious mistakes and would avoid many troubles before they got out of hand.

Questions:

Have you ever experienced your spirit being disturbed about somebody or something, followed your gut feeling, and later discovered that you had avoided serious trouble?

If you experience an inward disturbance, a lack of peace or restlessness, how should you respond?

DON’T LET SATAN SNUFF IT OUT

Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 2:5-11

I wrote to you as I did to test you and see if you would fully comply with my instructions.  When you forgive this man, I forgive him, too. And when I forgive whatever needs to be forgiven, I do so with Christ’s authority for your benefit, so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes” [2 Corinthians 9-11 NLT].

We used to sing in children’s meetings:

This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine…

 Won’t let Satan snuff it out, I’m going to let it shine

There is nothing that will snuff out the light, and hinder our fellowship with God, faster than an unforgiving spirit. For that reason Paul says, “we are familiar with his evil schemes” [verse 11]. The word “schemes” is variously translated as wiles, intentions or strategies. Notice that the Corinthian church forgave the offender, and Paul also exercised his authority to forgive. This is an outworking of the promise of Jesus, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” [John 20:23].

The consequences of unforgiveness are not only spiritual, but can also be physical, emotional and psychological. Many years ago a man in charge of a mental institution told me that he estimated that seventy per cent of all his patients could be released within a week if they would forgive the people that they held grudges against. Unforgiveness and bitterness are twins that destroy people’s lives.

I was ministering some time ago in a Christian student campus church in Minneapolis. At the invitation for prayer a young woman was among those who came to the communion rail. I found myself saying to her, “You are no longer rejected! You are no longer rejected!” When I asked her who had rejected her, she responded by saying,  “My mother and my sister.” Her sister was the favourite and she felt unwanted.” That evening she had no difficulty forgiving her mother, but when challenged to forgive her sister she began to choke. Satan had bound her through unforgiveness. Finally she managed to get the words out, “I forgive my sister.” At that moment she fell backwards and cried out, “My back! My back!” She had previously been rejected for missionary service because of a severe curvature of the spine, but following the forgiveness of sister her spine became straight and perfectly normal.

Questions:

Why do you think that unforgiveness is such a powerful tool of the enemy to destroy people?

Are there any areas of unforgiveness in your life that hinder your progress and growth as a Christian?

Spend time alone with God and write down on a piece of paper the names of anyone that you need to forgive. Will you then bring that paper to the cross and release those people whose names you have written down?

LOVE AND TRUTH ARE INSEPARABLE

Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 2:5-8; Genesis 32:22-33

I am not overstating it when I say that the man who caused all the trouble hurt all of you more than he hurt me. Most of you opposed him, and that was punishment enough. Now, however, it is time to forgive and comfort him. Otherwise he may be overcome by discouragement. So I urge you now to reaffirm your love for him” [2 Corinthians 2:5-8 NLT].

Just recently I heard someone say to another person, “Just tell Jesus that you love Him and you will go to heaven!” As soon as I heard this I felt uneasy because it is so far removed from the Biblical concept of what a Christian is. We are to love Jesus but also must embrace truth. In the famous “love chapter” Paul writes, “Love rejoices with the truth” [1 Corinthians 13:6 NIV]. Love and truth are two inseparable twins. Elsewhere Paul says that we are to speak the truth in love. This is a key to growing into maturity as a Christian [Ephesians 4:15].

Paul is writing to the Corinthians in the context of someone who has caused a lot of trouble in the church. It is possible that this was the same Christian Brother who had been in an immoral relationship with his father’s wife or step-mother [1 Corinthians 5:1ff]. His sin was damaging to the church, and the church had refused to deal with it. Following Paul’s letter the church repented of their complacency and dealt with the issue and the man had been punished [2 Corinthians 2:6 NIV]. It appears that the man had been sorrowful and repented. The necessary discipline given out of love for both the church and this offender had achieved its goal, and it was now time to put that in the past. So it is that Paul encourages them to forgive, comfort and reaffirm their love for him [verse 7-8].

Because love and truth go together it is sometimes called tough love! Love does not flinch from doing what is right. Some of our young pastors in Indonesia had issues of sexual immorality. They would be asked to step down from ministry for a period of twelve months, to give them time to consider their actions and repent. Most, but not all of them, came through this time as much stronger Christians and better leaders. This is love and truth working together.

We read in the story of Jacob that God had to hurt him in order to get his attention. The Lord put his hip out of joint, but it was an act of love, and the resultant change in Jacob’s life was stunning. God loved him enough to hurt him!

Questions:

Why do you think that people have pretended that love is simply a soft and pleasant emotion that does not deal with truth?

Have you ever experienced God’s tough love in your own life, as he deals with unresolved sinful issues?

Why is church discipline so necessary and important, but so difficult to put into practice?

CONTROL IS A KILLER – PART 2

Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 1:15-24

“Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand” [2 Corinthians 1:24 NKJV]

One of the problems linked to control and domination is that people are often not aware that they are doing it, and therefore also subject to deception. A spirit of witchcraft [domination, control] and deception tend to operate together.

I have discovered that two major issues related to control are rejection and busy-bodying. We will look at both today.

When a person faces serious rejection, and especially in childhood from the people they most expect love from, there are often two parallel roots that develop. The first is the fear of further rejection, and the second is self-rejection.

Fear is one of Satan’s greatest weapons. People use various mechanisms to counteract the fear of rejection. These include anger, trying to be successful so that people will love and accept you, acting and believing as if you don’t need other people, and also trying to be in control. When you try to be in control you must win every argument, cannot accept criticism, and believe your opinion is always right. The sad thing about this is that you may also be deceived and believe that the way you are living is the way that God intended!

It is also a powerful entrance for spirits of control to come in and dominate a person’s life.

The other area that is prone to become an issue of control is busy-bodying. This means to involve yourself in other people’s affairs that are really none of your business. I have particularly noticed the prevalence of this on social media.

 

Writing to the Thessalonians Paul gives a strong word of counsel, “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you” [1 Thessalonians 4:11]. The more we interact with others, the more we must guard our attitudes. Before speaking it may be wise to ask if what I am saying is necessary, and is the issue any of my business. This would save an awful lot of pain, and especially in the context of a church fellowship.

Questions:

Have you, like me, ever used the various mechanisms that I have mentioned today to protect yourself against the fear of being rejected? If God has set you free from those mechanisms what difference did it make in your life?

What do you think Paul means when he says, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life”?

Why does Paul consider it to be so important that we learn to be quiet and mind our own business?

CONTROL IS A KILLER – PART 1

Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 1:15-24

“Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand” [2 Corinthians 1:24 NKJV]

Paul made it quite clear that he had no desire to have dominion or control over the church in Corinth. He could advise or warn them but they had to be free to make their own decisions. The direct translation from the Greek is “We do not want to lord it over your faith”. It is the same word used by Peter when he says to elders, “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock” [1 Peter 5:2-3].

The meaning of words “dominion” and “lord it over” is to control, manipulate, and to dominate. This is exactly what Jezebel did in the Old Testament, and the spirit operating within her was witchcraft [2 Kings 9:23]. This is the same as sorcery. When we control or dominate people we open the door to the demonic. To offer sound advice if it is requested is good but not to control!

Paul asked the Galatians, “Who has bewitched you” [Galatians 3:1]. Here is the same issue of control and sorcery. In the margin of the Spirit Filled Life Bible Jack Heyford comments, “The Judaizers are like evil sorcerors diverting their victims eyes from the Cross to the Law.”

It is quite revealing to see how the spirit of witchcraft affected others who came in contact with Jezebel. Most obviously, her words to Elijah sent the prophet into deep depression [1Kings 19:1ff]. But we also find other effects of this controlling spirit. She controlled her own husband [1 Kings 21:15]. She controlled other male rulers and nobles so that they did whatever she told them to do [1 King 21:11,14]. She hated and killed God’s prophets [1 Kings 18:4,13]. She always sought to get her own way by whatever means necessary. A prime example of this is the way that she had Naboth killed in order to obtain his vineyard [1 Kings 21:5,7,11,14].

Paul warned Timothy not to be intimidated by false teachers in Ephesus [2 Timothy 1:7]. When we allow others to control us we lose our spiritual power and effectiveness, and we become more concerned with what men want than obeying God. Perhaps the greatest reason why control is so deadly is the fact that it is the very opposite of the nature and character of God. He releases people and does not control them, and has given us the freedom to make our own choices. We are not puppets on His string, but have the freedom to obey Him or disobey Him, and to make choices that make His heart glad. In tomorrows devotional we will look at two reasons why people want to control others.

Questions:

Why is the control and domination of people so wrong? What are the consequences for people who do control others, and the effect on the people they control?

SEALED AND GUARANTEED

Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 1:15-22

The apostle Paul has been speaking about God’s faithfulness, His promises, and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. He continues to write about the Holy Spirit who seals and gives us a guarantee for the future.

Recently I saw an atomic clock in a jeweller’s window. Next to it was a statement that this clock would only lose one second in ten thousand years. Fascinated, I asked the shop assistant if it was guaranteed for ten thousand years. She laughed and said that it was only guaranteed for five years. I am so glad that our salvation is eternal and that the guarantee that we have of this on earth is until we receive the full glory that awaits us in heaven.

The idea of being sealed is that God has put His mark on us as belonging to Him. In antiquity, seals pressed in wax officially authenticated ownership. The seal of God’s ownership for His people is the Holy Spirit, placed in the heart of the believer. Writing to the Ephesians Paul says, “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory” [Ephesians 1:13-14]. This seal of the Spirit is a guarantee of all our future riches in Christ. We are securely God’s possession!

The Greek word translated as guarantee is arrabōn. It is a financial term meaning down payment, deposit or guarantee. This is the first instalment, which guarantees full possession when the whole is paid later. Arrabōn describes the Holy Spirit as the pledge of our future joys and bliss in heaven. The Holy Spirit gives a foretaste or guarantee of the things to come. The words of a hymn come to mind: 

Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine,

O what a foretaste of glory divine;

Heir of salvation, purchase of God

Born of Spirit, washed in His blood! 

The Holy Spirit within us gives us the assurance of all the wonderful things that God has prepared for His children. Paul wrote, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit” [1 Corinthians 2:9-10].

Questions:

Is there a danger that in the busyness and stresses of life our eyes become dim and our hearts grow cold, and we lose sight of the glorious hope we have in Jesus? Why not ask Him to quicken you afresh? Why not thank Him that you are His and that the future is guaranteed?

Read 1 Peter 1:3-9. What does Peter say about this wonderful hope that we have in Christ? Why is the assurance of the Holy Spirit so important?

WHAT ON EARTH IS THE ANOINTING?

Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 1:20-21

“Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” [2 Corinthians 1:20-21 NIVUK]

Many times in charismatic circles I have heard preachers speak about the anointing and wondered exactly what they meant. I often felt confused about this. Is it an enabling from the Holy Spirit? Is it some sudden surge of spiritual power? Here Paul uses this same word, “He [God] anointed us”. So what does it mean and when are we or when were we anointed?

The Greek word translated as anointed in 2 Corinthians 1:20 is chrio and means to smear or rub. It was used of a shepherd who rubbed certain oils into his sheep’s skin to protect them from disease. It was used of a physician seeking to help a person with sore muscles – he would pour oil into his hands and begin to rub it into the sore muscles of his patient. It was also used in religious purposes to consecrate someone into a position of authority. Hence the word anoint has to do with the rubbing or smearing of oil upon someone else.

Now let’s take the context of the verse, remembering that oil in Scripture is a picture of the Holy Spirit. The best understanding I can find of the word anointing is God filled His hands with the essence of the Spirit and laid His hands upon our lives, pressing the Spirit’s power more deeply into us. When we speak of a person who is anointed we are literally saying that the hand of God is upon that person. In the Book of Acts we read, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power,” and it is that same word chrio translated as anointed. The hand of God was powerfully moving with the Holy Spirit upon Jesus, and the result was that He “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil.”

John says that we have an anointing as God’s children that enables us to know the difference between that which is true and false [1 John 2:27]. That is so wonderful, but so often I feel the need of a fresh anointing. A fresh rubbing of God’s power from His hand, enabling me to do effectively that which He has called me to do. The Psalmist speaks of this anointing, when He says, “You anoint my head with oil” [Psalm 23:5] and “I am anointed with fresh oil”[Psalm 92:10 ASV].

Questions:

A songwriter wrote these words:

O for a new anointing, O for a heavenly flame;

 O for a new anointing, To glorify Your Name

Why not make these words your prayer today and ask God for a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit upon your life? What were the direct results of the anointing that the Father gave to Jesus?

THE PROMISES OF GOD

Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 1:17-20

“For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory” [2 Corinthians 1:20 NLT].

In the Old Testament God made amazing promises concerning redemption, salvation, protection, healing, deliverance and much more. Almost every Old Testament book contains promises that God made. Here is one of my favourites:

“Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s” [Psalm 103:1-5 NLT].

Just look at the promises in these verses – forgiveness, healing, redemption, eternal life, love, goodness, and restoration! Paul says, Christ is the fulfiller and fulfilment of all the promises of God. The Amplified Bible says, “For as many as are the promises of God, they find their Yes [answer] in Him [Christ]” [Verse 20 Amplified Bible].

In the fourth chapter of Philippians there are three wonderful promises. Do you need peace? “The peace of God that passes all understanding shall guard your heart and mind through Christ Jesus” [Philippians 4:7]. Are you facing an impossible situation? “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” [Philippians 4:13]. Are you struggling financially? “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” [Philippians 4:19]. Notice that in each of these promises there is the phrase “through Christ” or “in Christ”.

My wife and I faced an impossible situation in Indonesia when we were adopting our daughter. Despite visiting the religious office in Jakarta day after day, the Muslim official refused to sign the final document that we needed. Although we were deeply discouraged, in our quiet time God gave us a promise! “Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west” [Isaiah 43:5 KJV]. With fresh faith and excitement I returned to the religious office, and several days later the official who stood in our way was moved to another apartment and his successor signed the document that we needed. That’s how faith in God grows and our fellowship with Him goes deeper!

Questions:

As you read God’s Word each day why not underline each promise that you find, and then begin to claim those promises for yourself? What do you think that spiritual impact will be for you if you do this each day?

Read 2 Peter 1:3-4. In what way does God’s promises bring us into deeper fellowship with Him?